Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 


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Bennett's Big Day

I lost my job on Friday morning.

Luckily I was able to take it back on Friday afternoon -- from 3rd Grader Bennett Harris, whose parents won the “Head of School for a Day” item at last spring’s DA Benefit Auction.

Though tempted to have Bennett renegotiate our employee dental insurance rates or let him field complaints from angry Upper School parents, I opted for a more gentle plan for Bennett’s big day. 

We began with Morning Meeting, where classmates made policy recommendations for Bennett to consider (“We should have only PE, recess, and science every day! . . .“There should be ice cream for everyone on Mondays and pizza on Fridays.” etc.).  As we walked through the hallway, a faculty member requested a salary increase. Showing his egalitarianism and fiscal conservativism, Bennett told her with all the gravitas he could muster, “I’ll think about it.”

Bennett’s interest in iPad gaming led us to the Upper School’s Information Technology office, where the crew showed him the real-time network dashboard and server room.


Our tour of “off-limits to students” landmarks continued with a trip to the top of the Physics tower, a walk on the Kenan 

Auditorium catwalk, a quick routine in the locked dance studio, and a ride on the cart of Electrician Anthony Ranieri.

Bennett even got some advice from former DA Headmaster Ed Costello, who now works out daily in the Kirby Gymnasium Fitness Center. After that conversation, Bennett now feels secure and confident about his post-retirement prospects.

Next up: a meeting with Lower School Director Carolyn Ronco, who sought advice from her new boss on some planned playground renovations (stay tuned for bushes next to the new turf field) and the optimal frequency for music, art, drama, Spanish, science, and PE in the Lower School schedule.

Bennett then paid a visit to his own PreKindergarten teacher: Sheri-lyn Carrow. After gamely donning the “Sunshine crown” and singing a few songs with the students, he showed a picture of himself and to the wide-eyed youngsters. “When I was a little kid,” he told them, “I loved the farm unit the best.”

Bennett was then able to accomplish his stated top priority as DA’s Head of School: bossing around his 12th Grade sister Mason. After his attempt to embarrass her in Geoscience class resulted only in a happy smile, hug, and detailed explanation of the Carbon Cycle, Bennett resorted to disciplinary action. He first mandated that she do jumping jacks in the quad, then pulled her by her ear toward his office. Bennett considers these two actions the legacy statements of his administration.

With that said, Bennett did make significant advances in foreign relations. A summit meeting with a visiting Chinese dignitary (Dr. Jianli Wang, our patron for our Beijing student exchange program) underlined his role as a global-minded Head of School.

Nearing the end of his term, Bennett chose to exercise one of the great privileges of his office: 

ordering pizza for lunch. We dashed back over to his classroom, freed a group of 3
rd grade hostages, and secreted them to the Head of School’s office for lunch and more conversation about the future of the school.

It wasn’t long before Bennett, as planned, relinquished the scepter of power. He seemed comfortable with this – as computer class, PE and Friday ice cream loomed on his horizon.

For me, the day offered a terrific chance to see our school from a new perspective. As we each return to our regular roles next week, I hope I can manifest the same positivity, poise, and curiosity that Bennett showed on Friday. 

Posted by mulkus on Sunday October, 11, 2015


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